Yogyakarta—aka Yogya—is the heart of Indonesia’s Java Island, known for its arts and traditional crafts. Though it’s small enough that you can run into friends on the street, it’s home to dozens of universities, making it a welcome stopover for international students and travelers. Incredible hospitality and friendly locals are some of Yogyakarta’s main draws, but there are also stunning beaches, amazing street art pieces, and quirky, off-the-map sights. Come for the well-trod temples, stay for the Chicken Church.
Yogya is the art capital of Java. Start with a visit to the colorful Affandi Museum (JI. Laksda Adisucipto No.167, Caturtunggal Kec. Depok, Kabupaten Sleman, Daerah Istimewa). Not only are the works of Affandi (one of Indonesia’s most well-known painters) on display, but the museum is also in his former home—the structures alone are worth the trip. Learn about traditional Javanese culture at the Ullen Sentalu Museum (Jalan Boyong KM 25, Kaliurang Barat, Hargobinangun, Sleman, Kabupaten Sleman, Daerah Istimewa). To check out the local underground art scene, Survive! Garage (JI. Nitiprayan 99, Ngestiharjo, Kasihan, Bantul, Daerah Istimewa) is an excellent starting point.
Yogyakarta is most famous for gudeg—a sweet Javanese coconut curry made with jackfruit, spices, and chicken—but there are plenty of choices, whatever your palate. If you’re missing Western food, Via Via (JI. Prawirotaman No.30, Brontokusuman, Mergangsan, Jogjakarta, Daerah Istimewa) has pasta and burgers as well as daily Indonesian food specials. They also have a bakery, a small fair-trade shop, and they offer yoga, cooking classes, and bicycle tours. Milas Vegetarian (Jl. Prawirotaman 4 No. 127B, Parangtritis, Brontokusuman, Mergangsan, Kota Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa) is a secret garden hideaway—I highly recommend the battered and fried tempeh mendoan. Vegan restaurant Simple Plant (Jl. Prawirotaman No.24-30, Brontokusuman, Mergangsan, Kota Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa) doubles as an art space, and part of the profits go to a local animal rescue. Be sure to order the vegan burger and the tonseng jamur (a local-style mushroom soup). For a drink, simply stroll down one of the two backpacker-populated streets, Jalan Sosrowijayan and Jalan Prawirotaman, where you’ll find lots of small bars and the occasional live music performance.
While wayang (shadow puppet theater), percussive gamelan music, and colorful, patterned batik fabric are the dominant cultural exports, there are lots of other interesting things to experience in Yogya. Papermoon Puppet Theatre (Bangunjiwo, Kasihan, Bantul, Daerah Istimewa) is a local puppetry and art space; catching a performance there is always a treat.
Artspace and restaurant Kedai Kebun Forum (JI. Tirtodipuran No. 3, Mantrijeron, Kota Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta) hosts a variety of movie screenings, theater performances, poetry, and music gigs. Borobudur and Prambanan are two of the most-trafficked temples, but there are plenty of smaller (and more affordable sites) all over Yogya, including the Gereja Ayam, aka Chicken Church (Gombong, Kembanglimus, Karangrejo, Borobudur, Magelang, Jawa Tengah), located just a few minutes from the Borobudur Temple. The creator of this unique church said it was meant to look like a dove, but the locals all agree: It’s a giant chicken.
Touring local markets is as much a part of the cultural experience as visiting temples or art galleries. Beringharjo (Pasar Beringharjo, Jl. Margo Mulyo, Ngupasan, Gondomanan, Kota Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa) is the whole package, located on Malioboro Street, the world-famous tourist hub of Yogya. It offers floor after floor of everyday, vintage, and traditional items—a great place to find oleh-oleh (souvenirs) for friends and family back home. Kota Gede Silver and Night Markets are famous for silver. From jewelry to elaborate boxes and figures, there is a vast array of shiny things to be had.
There are also several places offering silversmithing classes, so you can make your own trinket to bring home. Kasongan (JI. Raya Kasongan, Bangunjiwo, Kasihan, Bantul, Daerah Istimewa) is a road in the south of Yogyakarta. This area is famous for pottery and crafts, and it’s a great place to wander around and check out the various wares in small shops up and down the strip.
By Taarna Grimsley
Photographed by Nonna Olive Nella
Top photo: Beringharjo Market
This article originally appeared in the April/May 2018 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!
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